Forty years ago this week, St. John Paul II returned to his native Poland as the newly elected Bishop of Rome. It was the first time in history that a Pope visited a Communist country.
From June 2-10, 1979, the Polish Pontiff traveled across the nation of his birth, delivering more than 50 speeches, and inspiring a revolution of conscience that would transform Poland and reshape the spiritual and political landscape of the 20th century.
Millions of Poles, crushed under the weight of Soviet tyranny, turned out to see the Holy Father. On the first day of his pilgrimage, in Warsaw’s Victory Square, Pope John Paul II declared, “There can be no just Europe without the independence of Poland marked on its map!”
It was a proclamation heard across the world — and by a future U.S. president in California.
Ronald Reagan was elated. At the time, he hosted a popular radio show and dedicated numerous broadcasts to John Paul II’s historic pilgrimage. “It has been a long time since we’ve seen a leader of such courage and such uncompromising dedication to simple morality,” Reagan said.
A few months later, in November 1979, the former governor of California announced his cand
idacy for president of the United States. Soon after taking office, the president requested a meeting with the Pope.